Nadine Ingram, owner of the small but perfectly formed Woolloomooloo bakery Flour and Stone, has embraced a decadent bent this Easter. Nestled among the hearty, wholesome baked goods offered year-round at this inner city hideaway (think crème brûlée tart with poached strawberries peeking through or Ingram’s famous spicy gingerbread biscuits) is a surprising Easter offering: chocolate bread.
The foundation is, actually, your basic garden-variety hot cross bun recipe – fresh yeast and strong flour – but upgraded with the effortless combination of candied clementines, Valrhona chocolate (“the best”, Ingram affirms) and sour cherries swollen with brandy. “They’re outrageous,” Ingram says, grinning. “We make these cookies out of them and when you bite through you can taste the alcohol in them. So good.”
So good. True of the cherries and true of the loaf. A rustic, brioche-like crumb coloured a rich, mahogany brown thanks to melted chocolate folded through the dough, the bread is dotted here and there with slivers of the clementines and sour cherries, as well as chopped pieces of chocolate. The end result is exactly the kind of special, celebratory thing you’d want on your table come Easter Sunday lunch – with the crusts left over for a slick of butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon the next morning.
This Easter Ingram will be swapping the confines of Sydney’s concrete jungle for the wide-open land of the Hunter Valley, as she always does. Flour and Stone may only be one year old, but Ingram has been baking all her life, first for others such as Bourke Street Bakery and Bel Mondo in Sydney, and later for herself, both at Flour and Stone and at Cookie Couture, her bespoke biscuit business. So, predictably, Ingram’s Easter rituals are focused on the table. “We try and stick to a few traditions. We never eat bread on Good Friday, we always have fish.” This year you can expect the Easter loaf to factor into her celebrations alongside some old favourites. “I have two girls, aged 10 and six,” Ingram says, laughing. “So there are always lots of hot cross buns.”
For those trying it at home, Ingram advises adding all the wet ingredients – the candied fruit and the chopped chocolate – at the end, or running the risk of a very moist dough. And for a serving suggestion? “It’s going to be great with ricotta on it,” Ingram says. We’ll take her word for it.
Flour and Stone’s Chocolate Bread
180ml whole milk, heated until just warm
15g fresh yeast
55g unsalted butter
70g bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
4 tsp salt
280g bread flour
20g cocoa (Ingram used Callebaut)
90g coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate (Ingram used Valrhona, just use the best you can afford)
70g hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
60g sour dried cherries
30g candied orange peel, chopped
In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the milk. Add one tbsp of sugar, then set aside in a warm place for 10 minutes, until bubbles form on the surface.
While the yeast is activating, melt the butter and 70g chocolate over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir occasionally, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat.
Once the yeast mixture is frothy, mix in the remaining sugar, the egg, vanilla and salt.
Stir in half the flour and cocoa powder, then the melted butter and chocolate, then the remaining flour mixture, stirring until well-incorporated. If using a stand mixer, attach the dough hook and beat for 5 minutes, until smooth. If making by hand, knead on the bench for the same amount of time. The dough will be quite wet when ready.
Cover the bowl and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours.
Butter a 23cm loaf pan or shape into a free form loaf. You can also use a baker’s basket to create the shape.
Stir in the chopped chocolate, sour cherries, orange peel and nuts. Then fold the dough over on itself in the bowl for about 30 seconds, then transfer it to the buttered pan, pressing a bit to spread it to the corners. Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
About 10 minutes before you’re ready to bake the bread, preheat the oven to 175ºC.
Bake the bread for 50 minutes. Use a skewer to test when the bread is ready. When it comes out clean it is ready.